Sunday, August 7, 2011

ALEC Conference Protested in New Orleans, 1 Arrest

So, ALEC came to town. Anarchists decided it was worth going to, even though their is some group of rich conservatives or businesspeople meeting in our city every week, and ALEC is no worse than other lobbyist activity to us. The difference between lobbying and ALEC that got liberals excited to protest it was that their unions and progressive lobbying groups are not allowed a seat at the table inside ALEC.  They want equal access, naive to the reality of increasing corporate money, and therefore power, that makes the liberals easy to brush aside.

Flier handed out at the ALEC march.

Anarchists came with fliers in hand and flags waving in the air to protest the very existence of politicians and corporations in our world, not to beg for a seat at their table. The protest organizers, almost exclusively out of town liberals and member of the academic and non-profit class, created guidelines only a few days before the march which demanded everyone stay on the sidewalk, not be confrontational, and listen to the "peace marshals" in orange shirts. Things didn't go exactly as the way they planned from afar.

There are several problems with the guidelines the organizers set forth. First of all, New Orleans has a centuries-long tradition of people taking to the streets for jazz funerals, parades, secondlines, and Mardi Gras Indian events. This tradition has been fiercely defended by protest groups from civil rights organizers to the anti-war movement. To ask a New Orleanian to stay on the sidewalk while at a protest is to ask us to give up a freedom we've secured over time. And when you don't use your freedoms, as liberals probably know from bumper stickers, you can easily lose them.

So naturally, we took the streets during the march. Someone even managed to spraypaint a couple circle-As on the front of the Mariott while stunned ALEC delegates stood mere feet away. A smoke bomb was also lit off in the streets as the march wound it's way around the hotel. Unfortunately, the police did make one arrest for the graffiti. Anarchists stood protesting in front of the hotel, where delegates could hear and see us, while the organizers led people in circles around the building, afraid of being told to stop loitering, I guess, passing empty alleyways and hotel loading docks over and over.

And as far as the "peace marshals" go, we aren't living in a peaceful society. Maybe college educated middle class liberals don't experience the violence of this society first hand very often, but the threat of a police officers gun being pointed at your head is very real if one refuses to submit to the unfair rules that keep the rich in power. If they wanted to ensure "peace," maybe they could have asked the NOPD officers in attendance to go put their guns back at the police station, or they could have stopped some Sheriffs from evicting a family who couldn't pay a mortgage to Bank of America. The threat of massive violence is all around us every day; it is the only way this society keeps functioning as it is. How about stopping some of that? Instead of trying to discourage the people who are victims of it to stand up against such threats, threats manufactured into laws by groups like ALEC and enforced by the police and court system, why don't the "peace marshals"confront the on-going institutional violence all around us?

The out of town organizers' fliers even had a map with the wrong locations on it that didn't include the streets the march was going to go down. And, the people handing them out had no idea where the Mariott Hotel even was on the map! They also disrespected a veteran anti-police organizer in the city by calling him "Michael Suber" instead of his name, Malcolm Suber, while introducing him to speak at the rally. Despite their own fumbling around, some of them are blaming anarchists for "ruining" their protest. Ha, they didn't need any help! (And just for the record, in the linked article it says the arrestee has something to do with Nola Anarcha. This is not true, we don't know him, but he was our hero for the day for his brave actions! Yet another excellent example of "journalism" by slimy non-profiteers)

This march gave anarchists the rare chance in our city to feel united and in solidarity on the streets together. The feeling was wonderful, hopeful, and strong. It felt really good. Hopefully we'll see more local anarchists the next time we stand up to those who've stolen so much from us, so we can build those special bonds that come from confronting our oppressors together and create a stronger community of resistance.

This is what violence looks like, peace marshals: men with guns and handcuffs using violence. Spray-painting an anarchy symbol on the Mariott Hotel is not violence. Considering that half their rooms are empty every night while 100 homeless people sleep under the bridge by the over-crowded New Orleans Mission, the with-holding of a safe place to sleep for corporate profit is institutional violence committed daily by the Mariott against the homeless. Not to mention their hosting of ALEC, which writes laws that result in massive waves of violence against people of color, immigrants, women, and the poor. Peace? There is no peace.


  1. is it a requirement these days for cops to be tubby? Talk about throwing one's weight around .

  2. You need to stop criticizing "capitalism" for this. This is state corporatism. In a true capitalist system the police would be privatized and different police companies would be competing with each other in an open market. Corporations are also the product of socialism, not capitalism. They are a creation of the state to subvert the free market. That's why you fake "anarchists" need to stop attacking businesses and capitalism and start attacking the state which is the root of the problem.

  3. "In a true capitalist system the police would be privatized and different police companies would be competing with each other in an open market."

    Cool, so Blackwater can come back! Thanks capitalist! Now please go home and eat a bullet .

  4. @ The Anonymous above me: "Reality" links to the Mises Institute, that's all you need to know.

    I can't wait until we live in a rothbardian system where a bunch of competing (ouch!) Pinkerton-like groups are running around.

    But in reference to the original post: fuck the police. If anything, this should show how the police are *weapons* of capitalism. Of course they'd go after innocent comrades protesting.

  5. Tempting as it is, I don't think NOLA Anarcha should be so quick to characterize the actions of anarchists at the march so positively.

    I was standing near the back of the march. It was very frustrating how the 'peace marshalls' were asking us to stay on the sidewalk and basically power walk through the streets so as not to disturb anyone around us.

    But when the smoke bomb went off, the march became fractured. I watched as 10-20 union participants turned around to leave and told the rest of the march to do the same. After the spray paint, things became more disorganized and the march lost more people. The protest organizers were quick to dismiss all of the anarchists and did everything they could to distinguish themselves from them. Average protest participants who weren't wearing black or masks were left confused.

    So, while I agree that the time spent in front of the Marriot was uplifting for some anarchists because of the numbers and solidarity displayed by the black dress, masks and anarchy flags, some further analysis might help to improve future actions. I think that the actions of the 'anarchists in black' did diffuse the momentum of the march and alienate anarchists from many of the groups and individuals that participated in the march. Perhaps if there had been some media coverage of what happened the direct actions could have been more significant than any of the efforts of the protest organizers, but that wasn't the case. We could blame the protest organizers or ourselves for that (maybe if someone had called a reporter to say some shit is going to go down today?). I'm not saying this to condemn or accuse, I just think being realistic about the effects of our actions will make us stronger in the future.

    Overall, I hope that momentum from this protest can be used to encourage broad based anarchist organizing that develops actions on our terms and are indicative of the creativity, intelligence and passion that are key elements of this community. If anyone is interested in creating something like this let me know.

  6. Hell yeah NOLA!
    Yall are what's up!
    Lots of love and solidarity from Ⓐtlanta!

  7. @reality lulz. "real" anarchists are definitely all for the subjugation of people and relations into economic units!

    these fucking people stole the word libertarian and now they, like the center for the stateless society and what not, are trying to steal the word anarchism too! so that they can call others fake!

    some good shit.

    where'd yall get all those matching flags?

  8. New Orleans Anarchists: MOST FLAGS PER CAPITA

  9. @Reality: you need to go look up the development of the nation-state after feudalism in northern Italy in the 14/1500s. The state developed as the only way for the newly rich merchant class and newly created banking system to use their wealth to become socially powerful. Before then, feudal lords handed wealth down to relatives and distributed it as they saw fit. With the rise of the merchant class, they wanted everything to be converted to privately-owned property so that they could buy it up with their wealth as a way to become powerful in society. The nation-state was created to enforce those private property arrangements and contracts.
    Essentially, the nation-state as a form of governance and as a world system arose to defend merchant capitalism, and exists to maintain and spread the power of that class. Which is why colonization and resource extraction in places without nation-states is always accompanied by the introduction of the nation-state as the new imposed political form of organization for that territory. It best allows corporate resource extraction to take place. Ergo, without the nation-state and the violent institutions it uses to maintain capitalist order (police, courts, prisons, militaries, etc..), the merchant capitalist class would be unable to secure and maintain it's power and wealth.
    There are many more poor people in this world than rich, and without the state and the veneer of legitimacy it gives to the brutal force of police, prisons, and armies, not enough people would be recuperated into non-resistant postures to stop waves of the poor from taking back all the concentrated wealth and sharing it communally.
    Yes, you could have large numbers of privately competing police forces, and the extent of the concentration of wealth at this point today could mean that there would be enough people willing to work for high wages to do that protection work to possibly maintain those concentrations of capitalist wealth for a while through sheer illegitimate force, but not forever. Especially not in the third world, where there are more poor and less large concentrations of wealth. The privatization of the nation-state is something that can only occur because of the huge concentrations of wealth amassed via the robbing of the third world, and when that ends, that power will begin diminishing. A privatized state would also lead to a sort of neo-feudalism, with corporations/capitalists having to communalize their wealth to a great extent within their sphere of control to maintain loyalty, while each corporate/capitalist neo-fiefdom fought each other for greater resources/wealth/territory. A system which I doubt would last. Your utopian vision of a privatized nation-state and free-market capitalism would lead to it's own demise, as most every utopian vision contains the seeds of it's own destruction within it.

  10. Kezia- Your comments are awesome and I totally agree. I don't think we should beat ourselves up about alienating ourselves from liberals, after all, while they may have kind hearts and good intentions, they do not share the same goals as anarchists. There were certainly plenty of people in the march outside of the anarchist contingent who were glad anarchists were there, as well, and happy to see more confrontational approaches taken, though not willing to do so themselves. So, I think the crowd, while seemingly isolating themselves from the anarchists, also had plenty of supportive folks in it. I don't really care all that much whether the mainstream media covered the march. Yes, the march organizers must have done a horrible job at media outreach and communications for so little coverage to have happened, but what I cared about more was anarchists getting together, being in the streets, and building a sense of a community of resistance. Which I think occurred somewhat. I would say the BP protest was even better for that, since folks had a chance to sit around for 3 hours talking together. That was really nice.
    And I hope those connections between folks can build confidence so that, like you said so well, "I hope that momentum from this protest can be used to encourage broad based anarchist organizing that develops actions on our terms and are indicative of the creativity, intelligence and passion that are key elements of this community."

    "On our terms." My sentiments exactly.
    Let's get in the streets again together soon and continue to build this confidence, solidarity, and momentum to create a movement that can get some results!

    In that vein, I have been leaning towards the idea of anarchists possibly spearheading a movement to de-fund the police. I think it has real strategic values in many aspects (building coalitions with groups who could use the money for long-term violent crime prevention programs like education, literacy, jobs, recreation, etc..., as well as building coalitions with groups upset about recent police actions and patterns of abuse, and with every tiny victory, we gain more autonomy, more power for people to do as they want without the police around, and more freedom in the here and now).

    It's just an idea, right now, though.

  11. kezia --

    your sentiments are very intuitive and thought-provoking. it's a shame for me that most of our allies are not at the point at which they are ready to be more confrontational and that our initiatives to build a stronger normalized culture of resistance to oppression can be seen as alienating or diffusive. when we get in the streets, it's with the sincerest hope that those on the sidewalk may feel empowered enough to reclaim that space for themselves and begin re-imagining their surroundings. i believe that through pushing the boundaries of what's acceptable or even "legal" a more confident and dynamic movement emerges. that's the goal for me -- as it seems to me that oftentimes media simply echoes the perspectives of power.

    i just hope that for every 30 liberals alienated, we inspire one or two frustrated individuals to do more than power walk down the sidewalk of a permitted (read: safe and nonthreatening) march, hurling chants about "democracy" to all-but-empty back streets and hotel loading docks.

    -- an anticapitalist comrade

  12. Kezia: Thanks for your comments. I would like to see my anarchist comrades be less alienating to the people I see as our allies in the class war. Anarchism was once richly woven into the fabric of working class struggle in this country. I would like to see us make this true again today. Instead, anarchism is often a subculture that fetishizes fashion and posture (and actions disconnected from any impact) rather than building true resistance to capitalism.
    At the protest, I was trying to convince the protestors to stay in front of the Marriott and actually confront the delegates. I don't care about property destruction, but I think that the smoke bomb and spray paint was certainly a distraction to building solidarity and confronting the people we intended to confront.

  13. The liberals sold you out, comrade. The organizers wouldn't have agreed to stop even if there was no smoke bomb or graffiti.
    You know why? Because those elements that used to be woven in with anarchism 100 years ago in working class struggle are now woven deeply into the fabric of capitalism. Unions, liberals, democrats, and non-profiteers all depend on this system for their paycheck, and they will defend it against anarchists and other revolutionaries to the death.

    The sooner you realize that, the sooner anarchists can better build their own movement that whatever disparate elements of the working class who are willing to be woven into a real working class movement of resistance against capitalism can become a part of. Right now they, like you, just join in with the reformist wing of Capital because no such movement exists. It's up to us to build it, and the longer we work with those elements of the old working class left that have been thoroughly woven into the fabric of capitalism and recuperated, the harder that will be.

    This is my experience in 12 years of organizing, much of which was wasted trying to satisfy the insatiable demands of liberals on anarchists like myself while still remaining true to my ideals. I've found they are never satisfied as long as you are trying to question capitalism and the state, as long as you are attempting to be anything more than just a foot soldier, a number, a signature on a petition, a grunt worker, a voter, a donor, or a charity worker.

    Give up the ghost.

  14. I would disagree that the spray painting smoke bomber was either "brave" or a "hero." I agree that his actions were a distraction and I would add that he simply played into a manufactured image of anarchists that many of us would not identify with.

    I can see why labor felt alienated. Something tells me that the working class man I watched scrubbing the spray paint off of the building was not sold on the idea of anarchism that day.

    Instead of calling for a revolutionary overthrow of the state and capitalism and dismissing everyone who disagrees maybe we could try a bit harder to open more people's minds to the possibility of a world free of oppression from hierarchy. Those who felt alienated are already explicitly anti-capitalist. I would say that is a pretty damn good starting place for us to be organizing effective actions and alternative institutions together. Please remember that a great many people go through liberal or other kinds of phases before ending up as anarchists.

    There is a latent anti-authoritarianism bubbling just under the surface of people all around us, but they have no name yet for this feeling and no known outlet for them to express it creatively and constructively. Here is where I would like to focus our organizing efforts.

  15. @NolaAnarcha:

    Concerning your response to the comments by "Reality", I think it's good to note that capitalism is the whole reason the modern nation-state took the form it did (it's no surprise that monarchy became republic as feudalism became capitalism).

    I'm going to make a prediction that a stateless capitalist society would be far more policed than the society we have now. Why? Because there would be a huge demand for private police by capitalists and property owners that becoming a private cop would result in high pay, giving all sorts of people the incentive to go into the mercenary business.

    But also realize that this is one of the reasons why the capitalists would desire to bring the state back. They'd realize that paying for private police would become too expensive after a long while and would much rather put the burden on the wage slaves (who pay most of the taxes to the state as it already is) to pay for their own oppression. That's what they've always done and there's no reason to think they'd want to change it now.

    This whole "anarcho-capitalism" fad seems like it was created by the state-capitalist propaganda machine to discredit anarchism. They know they can't kill ideas, so they figured that the best way to "catch" anarchists would be to discredit their ideology not through academia (like the way mainstream economists try to discredit Marx/marxism) but by changing the whole concept behind the ideology. Even Rothbard admitted that his ideas had nothing whatsoever to do with anarchism. The whole "an"-cap movement is 95% academia and 5% "move to New Hampshire". There's no real substance behind it, just talk and petty philosophical debates which are unsupported by empirical evidence.

  16. @Anonymous who posted: "Anarchism was once richly woven into the fabric of working class struggle in this country. I would like to see us make this true again today. Instead, anarchism is often a subculture that fetishizes fashion and posture (and actions disconnected from any impact) rather than building true resistance to capitalism."

    I blame people on the (mainstream) left who have completely abandoned workers' struggles in favor of things like identity politics and lifestyle politics. Even when activists talk about class struggle it's always done in the context of building a bigger welfare state and not about engaging in radical direct action or building alternative institutions or anything along those lines. That's the real shame.

    I don't think violence isolates. I think it draws people in to the cause, since they see their own frustrations with the system in every act of corporate property destruction.

  17. I understand that ALEC was in town for 5-6 days. Why didn't you just organize the kind of protest you wanted on a different day?

  18. #1) Because conferences come here all the time full of terrible managers of society like ALEC, so ALEC wasn't enough of a big deal to organize around, personally.
    #2) Out of town liberals started organizing around it with some regional anarchists and others, which would have forced those organizing with the out of towners to choose who to organize with, as well as splitting people up more.
    #3) it's good to have an anarchist presence at otherwise liberal events to articulate coherent critique of the system than "ALEC bad!" to both those at the protest and those looking on.
    #4) it's important to be at liberal events, which are using the anger around issues that negatively effect working people to build political advantage for the left wing of Capital, to confront liberal notions of change and demand they answer for why they pretend to care about working people so much, but just not enough to actually attempt to shut down the ALEC conference, or even stand in front of the doors and protest where delegates could see them. The organizers of these events are recuperators and diffusers of legitimate rage against this system. And that is never made more obvious than when they are confronted with people willing to express that rage, and they are forced to show their true colors: as people who are trying to divert rage into reformist politics, and/or undermine it by not standing in solidarity with those who are angry and instead distancing themselves from us.